Music and art are often synonymous, and nowhere is that more apparent than at the annual Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.
As guests approach Centeroo-where a majority of the festival action takes place-fuchsia fencing serves as an open canvas for graffiti artists, taggers and painters. By the second full day of the festival, it’s to be expected that a number of these walls will be covered with interesting, unprovoked and provocative art.
One piece in particular serves as a microcosm of the Bonnaroo zeitgeist-and it was created by Chattanoogan Ed Ditto.
Ditto is the owner of a new “side gig” art production outfit that he calls RePsychadelics. The large pieces he creates can include myriad varieties of wood, bicycle parts and anything else he finds in trash bins near his North Chattanooga home.
“There’s a Dumpster on every corner and all of those Dumpsters are full of nice, recycled wood,” Ditto said. “So I collect it.”
Pallets, wood paneling, fabrication parts and anything else he can find serve as inspiration for his work.
As a veteran Bonnaroo attendee, Ditto is no stranger to the art side of the festival. For years, he offered live painting as a way to give back to the festival. But this year, he brought a small wooden plaque as a starter and then spent hours adding wooden blocks until the creation was complete.
But things tend to evolve on their own at Bonnaroo, and only hours after the piece was complete, hundreds of attendees had “tagged” individual blocks with messages of love, loss and commemoration.
By Friday afternoon, every block had transformed into its own piece of art. Essentially, Ditto had created a canvas on top of a canvas.
And it is beautiful.
“What is going on at the stage is only part of the festival,” he said. “I think my piece catches the eye because it’s more organic. It’s collaborative … like Bonnaroo itself.”
The messages Bonnaroovians have chosen to add to Ditto’s piece vary. Some are rife with vulgarities, and others are incredibly bizarre or touching.
Most people just write their name and an emblem, but one of the first people to add a message offered a touching remembrance to her friend. Ditto said she had tears in her eyes as she wrote “RIP Jon” on the piece of wood. He could tell it meant a lot to her to be able to do that.
Others added messages like “Go Pens,” a nod to the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League, currently in the Stanley Cup Finals. Another message offered the suggestion to “Smile, it’s contagious.”
Ditto is encouraging anyone at Bonnaroo who might see the mural-or those who take a picture of it during their weekend-to add the photos and make comments on his Facebook page.
As for this particular piece, he said he hopes to remove a few wood blocks for himself at the end of the weekend. The rest will go wherever it is that Bonnaroo art goes. That’s why it was created.
“It’s ironic that this piece will probably go to a landfill,” he said. “They’ll probably put it right back where I pulled it from in the first place. But I’ll tell you this-it’s not coming off easy. Each piece is held up with heavy-duty construction adhesive.”
Ditto said the commissions for his artwork keep rolling in despite little advertisement on his part. What started as a hobby-he used to give them as gifts-has turned into a legitimate business.
“It’s essentially upcycling,” he said.
Updated @ 10:26 a.m. on 6/11/16.